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WGLT's reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, which began in McLean County in March 2020.

Google Data Shows McLean County Residents Are Staying Home — Except For Parks

Abe in a mask
Charlie Schlenker
Even Abraham Lincoln (in downtown Bloomington) is following the CDC's recommendation to wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

McLean County residents are staying home about as well as everyone else in Illinois—but we’re apparently using parks more than others across the state.

That’s according to a new batch of Google location data that’s tracking how people have changed their movements during the coronavirus pandemic. Google says the Community Mobility Reports were created with “aggregated, anonymized sets of data from users who have turned on the Location History setting, which is off by default.”

Gov. JB Pritzker’s stay-at-home order began March 21. As of March 29, McLean County residents had cut their retail and recreation visits by 53% and grocery and pharmacy visits by 28%, according to the Google data. That’s about the same as statewide declines against baseline levels.

However, McLean County residents have slightly increased their use of parks, dog parks, plazas, and public gardens, by about 1%, according to Google. That’s in contrast to the statewide trend, which saw a 29% decline in parks usage, Google reported.

Bloomington-Normal parks remain open, although playgrounds are closed. Constitution Trail, a 40-mile linear park of sorts, also remains open (and quite busy).

One big caveat: The data is imperfect. It only represents people who’ve not turned off their Location History setting on their devices.

One example of that imperfection: Google data shows a 37% decline in visits to “transit stations,” such as bus stops. That’s less than the 55% decline statewide. However, Connect Transit (Bloomington-Normal’s transit system) officials said last week it’s actually seen a 60-65% loss in ridership.

We’re living in unprecedented times when information changes by the minute. WGLT will continue to be here for you, keeping you up-to-date with the live, local and trusted news you need. Help ensure WGLT can continue with its in-depth and comprehensive COVID-19 coverage as the situation evolves by making a contribution.

Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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